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And now for Something Special… Po sted o n April 6 , 20 11 by Sara Oldham Something Special magazine hits the shelves to day and it’s the crux o f o ne o f the mo st rewarding and challenging pro jects that Prescho o l Magazines has taken o n in recent years. The premise was simple: to create a magazine based o n the incredibly

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successful CBeebies sho w ‘Something Special’ . It also presented us with a unique o ppo rtunity, because Something Special was o riginally created fo r children with

S e a rch

learning and co mmunicatio n difficulties, but cro ssed o ver to beco me a mainstream CBeebies brand with an etho s to co mmunicate with all children.

We have created the first inclusive mainstream magazine that is accessible fo r children with learning and co mmunicatio n difficulties. And in do ing so , we have learnt abo ut the many challenges

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o ur readers face.

Our starting po int was to disco ver who the fans o f Something Special were, why they lo ve the brand, and what they want fro m a magazine. With Something Special the age range o f readers is very bro ad, appealing to children as yo ung as 2 and up to 16 , which thro ws up a wealth o f challenges. Ho w can yo u create o ne co hesive magazine that appeals to everyo ne? This questio n pro mpted a 6 -mo nth perio d o f research and I am pro ud to say the readers o f

February 2011

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Something Special have had as much input into the magazine as its edito rial team.

RSS feed Our first step was to co ntact parents who had expressed an interest in a regular magazine. Their feedback helped to shape a dummy issue, which we then researched further. This pro cess has enabled us to build lasting relatio nships and many o f them have sent us subsequent ideas and will be invited to future reader events.

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While o ur readers are very different ages, they are mo stly in the earlier stages o f develo pment, sharing so me

tr e n d i n g . If yo u l o ve h i m a s m u ch

impo rtant characteristics. Fo r example, mo st o f o ur readers are just learning abo ut their place in the wo rld and are

a s we d o , co m e & s e e h i m & h i s fr i e n d s o n to u r h ttp ://b i t.l y/ItNG Li ve

develo ping the ability to co mmunicate. They feel frustrated because they want a level o f independence but are still

3 hours ago

very reliant o n their parents. And whilst they are adventuro us, they still have so me irratio nal fears and need to feel

#B LO G : Wi th d e m a n d co n s ta n tl y

safe in the wo rld we create fo r them. But they had a very impo rtant thing in co mmo n: they lo ve Something Special

g r o wi n g fo r #d i g i ta l co n te n t, we a s k - h o w d o yo u wr a p a d i g i ta l p r o d u ct?

presenter Justin Fletcher (aka Mr Tumble) and this was the key to unlo cking edito rial that wo rks fo r everyo ne.

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We also so ught pro fessio nal o pinio ns, including fro m the Makato n charity, who guided us o n the co mmunicatio n

u n ve i l e d fo r #To r ch wo o d : Mi r a cl e Da y - p r e m i e r i n g o n 8 th J u l y i n th e

system used in the pro gramme. We visited a range o f scho o ls, fro m scho o ls that specialise in taking children with

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the mo st severe and pro fo und learning disabilities, to mainstream scho o ls that have a go o d pro visio n fo r children

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with vario us special educatio nal needs. This really helped us to understand the impo rtance o f creating activities that can be accessed at different levels. The magazine do esn’t have the flexibility o f a classro o m, but it’s po ssible to structure activities that can be experienced by children at different levels. As lo ng as the activity is fun and led by Mr Tumble, o ur readers feel mo tivated to have a go .

Our o ther key o bjective was to understand the specific challenges faced by children with different learning disabilities. Again, these are very diverse.

Fo r o ne child, this can be the anxiety created witho ut an o rdered ro utine. Fo r ano ther, it can be a remarkable ability to spo t details in a picture, which make it very difficult to view it as a co hesive who le. So me children are develo ping at the same, o r even better, co gnitive rate as their peers, but have a physical disability that prevents them fro m co mmunicating their tho ughts o r feelings. Other children find it very difficult to read emo tio ns, o r to think co nceptually abo ut the past o r future. Our challenge was to try and minimise the barriers these children face when engaging with the magazine. This means featuring Makato n signs, with clear guidance to parents so they can use them, but witho ut letting them do minate the pages. Simplicity and clarity are key. Fo r example, wherever po ssible, we use pho to graphs in the magazine, which help o ur readers to understand the images.

We can never sit back and claim o ur jo b is do ne, because we’ll always be faced with new challenges we haven’t co nsidered befo re. To ensure we are co nstantly evo lving, we enco urage lasting reader relatio nships. We’ve created a reader panel, we are ho lding a co ffee mo rning in July, and in additio n, we have experts co ming to the o ffice to help educate the who le team. Our readers are already writing to us so we kno w we’re o n the right track. As I’m writing this blo g, o ne mum emailed and said, “Thank yo u so much fo r entering into the wo rld o f Makato n, To m’s wo rld and lo ts o f children and adults like him. Yo u sho uld all be very pleased and pro ud o f yo urselves.” Abo ve all else, it’s great fun. As all o f the children screaming Mr Tumble’s name at Westfield fo r to day’s launch will testify, Justin Fletcher and the CBeebies pro ductio n team really have created Something Special .

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About Sara Oldham Editor of Something Special, In the Night Garden, Bob the Builder, Charlie

and Lola and CBeebies Animals Magazines View all posts by Sara Oldham →

This entry was po sted in Magazines and tagged So mething Special. Bo o kmark the permalink. ← Taking British TV o n a digital jo urney

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